So You’ve Decided to Take in a Stray?
Many years ago, when I was but a wee lad, I was adopted. As an adoptee (stray), I feel a sort of obligation to adopt a child into my home one day. It’s like some sort of pyramid scheme.
I tell you this because I’ve had the same thoughts as you have now and I just didn’t know where to begin. Let me explain how simple this process can be and show you where to begin.
Step 1: Terminate Parental Rights
Before an adoption can be granted, the prior parents’ rights must be terminated. I have an entire Blog Post devoted to this topic that I recommend you checking out first. However, the
termination can be pursued simultaneously with the adoption so that they are combined at the final hearing. In fact, this is the recommended method.
Step 2: Preadoptive/Postplacement Social Studies
Sounds scary doesn’t it? Don’t worry, the name is the scariest part. Most likely, the child has already been living with you for awhile so you can combine both of these into one.
Basically, a social worker will visit and inspect your home, interview you and your spouse, and interview the child. They are not looking for reasons to disqualify you as parents but gathering information that they will supply to the Court on whether they recommend your home as being in the best interest of the child. This step usually takes the longest so you’ll start it first.
Step 3: Criminal History Report
This part worries people because they are afraid that a minor lapse in judgment in college is going to ruin everything. Having a blemish on your record doesn’t stop you from being able to adopt, but the Court just wants to have all of the information available to decide on.
Step 4: Health, Social, Educational, & Genetic History Report
If you are closely related to the child, this report isn’t required. Think of this report as a Carfax for the child. It chronicles any genetic predispositions to diseases up to the child’s grandparents, the status of educational developments since birth, immunization and health records, and so on. For non-family adoptions, this report is very helpful.
Step 5: Final Hearing
I didn’t include File the Petition as the first step because I think it is better to discuss it here. Everything that you want the Judge to Order at the final hearing must be requested in the Petition. Basically, you can’t get it unless you ask for it. Don’t neglect the name change.
At the Final Hearing, you and your spouse will take the witness stand and “prove” all of the things listed above. Once all of the testimony is entered, you will ask the Judge to terminate the prior parent-child relationship and grant the adoption.
–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Family Law Division
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479